Friday, November 23, 2007

Psalm 78 - section 1

Psalm 78 is very long - 72 verses. I have not found its structure yet but I have found a large number of repeated verbs. I am going on the thesis that I will isolate candidate cells / stanzas / sections through concentric or sequential-overlapping circles, and distinguish these from recurrence indicating interlocking themes through the repetitions that are not within such circles. There is ambiguity in my method since a circle based on a repeated root can be as large as one wishes - so the difference is really in scope. Yet I maintain that in the human perception of form, some repeated words define sections and others link sections. Repetitions that define sections are more plausible if they form a set of related circles. (For the clearest example so far see Psalm 51. The English only version is a little more developed than the Hebrew-English diagram.)

Here is a list of some of the repeated words of Psalm 78 - section 1. This is a step towards finding structure based on word usage patterns at the macro level rather than observing and bulding up lines, strophes, and stanzas from consecutive prosodic elements at the micro level.

hear (שָׁמַע) - with three subjects: we, the Lord, and God. Hearing is a linking theme.
know (ידע) - with three occurrences all in the first section - knowing defines section 1.
follow / behind (אַחֲרוֹן -'axaron) occurs 4 times - twice in section 1 and twice in the last section - maybe bookends.
establish / stand (יָּקֶם) - twice in section 1 - the testimony and the children.
set (שָׂם) - twice in section 1 - Torah that God set, the children to set their hope in God.
prepare - (הֵכִין) Prepare is a linking theme.

Section 1 is thus defined by three different verbs repeated in sequence: know, establish, set. These words are not used again in the rest of the psalm. Section 1 links to other sections in the psalm through two other words: hear and the root אַחֲר which is a candidate for unifying the psalm as a whole and in the last verse, prepare.

There are other verbs in section 1 (verses 1-8, column 1 in the diagram) that are used only once in the psalm and 1 verb that is used three times in section 1 (ספר) but not in sequence: the verbs are repeated as declare-declare-establish::stand-declare and are therefore concentric rather than sequential. The nucleus surrounded by these circles is the intergenerational requirement of Torah and testimony laid on the chosen people - clearly announcing the subject of the psalm.

There are additional noun repetitions in section 1 that confirm its status as a section. Curiously, considering the intergenerational aspect of the psalm, only 'fathers' is repeated in other sections. Children, generation, repeated in section 1, are not used again.

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